Time Travel, Monsters, Aliens, Butts: Our 10 Favorite Films of Fantastic Fest 2019

Cleopatra Coleman stars in the excellent new Netflix film In the Shadow of the Moon.
Photo: Netflix

The 2019 edition of Fantastic Fest, which wrapped up yesterday, once again lived up to its name. Over the course of several days I saw movie after movie and, after 19 total, there was only one I considered “bad.” That’s pretty fantastic.

Everything about Fantastic Fest this year lived up to that standard though. You rarely heard about movies people didn’t like. Everything was at least OK. And good movies meant good vibes all around. Great conversations. Excellent food, drink, everything you can think of. The secret screenings, Dolemite Is My Name and The Lighthouse, were also stellar, even if one wasn’t an io9 movie and neither was what everyone really wanted: Cats.

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It’s also important to acknowledge 19 films out of the entire festival is but a mere fraction of all the films screened. I missed buzzed-about films like The Platform and Synchronic, and films like Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite and Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, which screened after I’d already left. So we can’t say definitively these were the best movies at the festival. They’re just just our favorites out of everything we saw. Either way though, you should definitely keep them on your radar.


1. In the Shadow of the Moon

In the Shadow of the Moon is an excellent blend of sci-fi, drama, and action. It has good character work in a complex, mysterious story, with set pieces that maybe aren’t the biggest, but drive the action forward and still manage to entertain.” Read more:

2. Sweetheart

“A mysterious, exciting, engrossing movie that proves popcorn movies come in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes several contradicting shapes and sizes at the same time.” Read more:

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3. Butt Boy

“Does it involve butts? Very much so. However, it does so in a way that’s so audacious and silly, and yet is handled so seriously and dramatically, it’s almost unfathomable, in the best possible way.” Read more:

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4. Jojo Rabbit

“It’ll make you smile, it’ll make you sad, and it’ll make you believe in the best of us.” Read more:

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5. The Vast of Night

“The feature debut of director Andrew Patterson...blends elements of The Twilight Zone and Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds in a taut, captivating alien invasion film told in real-time.” Read more:

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No other photos or video is yet available of Wolfboy.
Photo: Fantastic Fest
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6. The True Adventures of Wolfboy

“Featuring supporting performances by Chloë Sevigny and a few other surprise stars, The True Adventures of Wolfboy feels so much bigger than a mere festival movie.” Read more:

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7. The Lighthouse

“The purest joy it provides is watching two stellar actors engaging in psychological warfare for the duration of the film.” Read more:

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8. Vivarium

“[Lorcan] Finnegan has a winner with Vivarium. It might be a little full of itself but it’s so mysterious, odd, and well-made that it’s worth it.” Read more:

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9. Memory: The Origins of Alien

“If you’re a fan of Alien or science fiction at all, you may not want it to end.” Read more:

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10. Sea Fever

Sea Fever takes Alien’s DNA and grounds it in reality, constructing a way to make such a scenario actually plausible. It’s creepy and entertaining...” Read more:

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Honorable mention: In the Tall Grass, Tammy and the T-Rex

I liked but didn’t love: The Wave, I Lost My Body, Wyrm, VHyes

I saw and didn’t like: The Antenna

I saw but weren’t io9 movies: The Whistlers (it’s okay), Dolomite Is My Name (it’s delightful)

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I missed and it kills me: The Platform, VFW, Color Out of Space, Synchronic, Come to Daddy, Guns Akimbo, The Lodge, The McPherson Tape, Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street, Parasite, The Pool, about a million others

For all our coverage of Fantastic Fest this year, and past years, head to this link.

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About the author

Germain Lussier

Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo